updated 06:10 pm EDT, Tue September 15, 2009
WSJ mobile to go to pay system
The Wall Street Journal will start asking those using the mobile version of its news to pay for the privilege, newspaper owner and News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch warned today. Although the company currently offers its phone-optimized version for free, a new plan launching within "one to two months" will ask non-subscribers to any WSJ edition to pay $2 per week for mobile access. Those who pay for either the online or print editions will have the rate cut in half, and only those who subscribe to both will get the mobile format for free.
It's unclear whether it will apply to all delivery methods right away, though the most immediate targets are likely to be both a BlackBerry-friendly version as well as the native iPhone app. The newspaper has often hinted that the iPhone version in particular may not remain free but has never set out definite plans until today.
Murdoch admitted that the climate for ad-supported online content was "much better" but justified the move as a push to generate more revenue from the usually low-revenue, but now more popular, mobile space.
The paper has in recent years been one of the few to charge for access to much of its content online and has been relatively successful in the process. Although major competitors like the New York Times have been relatively successful with a completely free model, many others have struggled or at times collapsed altogether as the ad revenue from online has often not been enough to make up for rapidly dropping subscriber numbers for the physical publication.
Larger publishers like Hearst have considered making their own e-book readers as an alternative to Murdoch's model, as it would keep users on paid subscriptions but with the added conveniences of online delivery.